A mechanic repairs a four-wheeler of a customer at a car company's 4S shop in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.
Vehicle owners in China often turn to non-dealers for service in the early stages of ownership, even when most vehicles are still under warranty, according to an industry report.
Owners of one-to four-year-old vehicles have made an average of 3.2 visits to dealers and 0.9 visit to non-dealers for service in the past year, according to the 2017 China Customer Service Index Study.
The CSI study was released on July 27 by J.D. Power, a California-based firm that provides consumer insights, advisory services, data and analytics.
Among new-vehicle owners who indicated expenses on non-dealer service, 71 percent have visited non-dealers for service over the past 12 months in spite of warranty.
Their expenditure on service at dealers and non-dealers in the past year is very close－an average of 2,450 yuan (2) and 2,098 yuan.
Service chains and streetside quick-service centers, which account for a combined 66 percent of all non-dealer service, have become the primary competitors to dealerships, said the report, now in its 17th year.
The study, which examines 71 passenger-vehicle brands, is based on online panel surveys and face-to-face interviews with 42,561 new-vehicle owners who purchased their vehicle between December 2012 and May 2016. The study was conducted between December 2016 and May 2017 in 62 major cities in China.
In addition to convenience of location (43 percent), other top reasons for visiting nondealers for service include opening on convenient days/hours (23 percent); recommendation from a friend or relative (23 percent); and speedy service (21 percent).
New-vehicle owners visit non-dealers mainly for such services as lube, oil, filter change (40 percent); other routine maintenance (33 percent); emergency repairs (24 percent); and non-emergency repairs (22 percent).
"These reasons are closely associated with service quality and customer satisfaction," said Ann Xie, senior research director at J.D. Power China.
"For dealers, the battle for customer loyalty and pocket now starts right from the beginning. New-vehicle warranties may help ensure dealers retain a relatively high volume of visits, but it is still not a guarantee of market share."
The study shows new-vehicle owners' overall rating on dealers' service is "outstanding", while non-dealers' service is rated as "average", with the rating for their non-dealer visits decreasing as the length of ownership grows.
"A lower level of satisfaction at non-dealers among new-vehicle owners provides dealers an opportunity to win over these customers at the time their warranties just begin to expire," said Frank Hu, general manager of auto retail at J.D. Power China.